Considering I'm still nursing one of my children, it's been all too easy to develop a maternal connection to my chickens, but it's natural in the way that I care about their basic sustenance. When I go out to care for my chickens, to bring them warm water when it's cold, or to fill up their feeder, Mabel and Helen try to escape, although I like to imagine they're running into my arms. But, our pullets are growing so fast, and much like my kids' diets, I want to make sure what our girls eat is the best, since what they eat, we will eat.
Conventional feed isn't an option for our family, so the debate has been whether to settle for Non-GMO or to invest in organic.
Shipping costs for feed are ridiculously high, so we've come to rely on local suppliers. Our city has a locally-owned farm supply warehouse that is so pro-chicken, it's Louisville's chicken supply headquarters. They provide classes on raising urban (and suburban) chickens, and host chicken swaps to buy, sell, trade, or get together for the free organic fair-trade coffee with other "chickeneers" to talk shop.
The local supplier carries both Non-GMO/Non-soy and organic feeds, and on my last trip to the warehouse (a half hour away) I'd decided to move from the Non-GMO I was using to the organic. But, they were out.
The demand for organics is high in my city, so to score organic feed, I'll need to find out when they get shipments and buy ahead of my chickens' demand.
But, is it really a big deal?
Our girls will have fresh grass to graze on a regular basis in their mobile ark, so they are now eating omnivorous diets with access to insects and (gulp) arachnids. So, despite their inarguably natural supplemental feed, pesticide residue will transfer to us through their eggs, even though the levels may be impossibly low. (It's also possible that the Non-GMO feed is mostly organic, just not USDA certified as such.) With so many opinions, and so many feeds available (at least online), it's difficult to know what's really best, and what's unnecessary.
So, chickeneers, what do you feed your chickens, knowing that your chickens are also feeding your kids, and that your chickens' body burden may also become yours?
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Photo: Rachel Hurd Anger